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Saint Benedict, father of monasticism in the West (480-547)

This great saint was born in Italy in the year 480, from a noble, pious family. His parents sent him to Rome where he earned an excellent education. However the sinful life that enslaved his colleagues there, pushed him eventually out, and therefore after he turned back to his father’s house, he decided to leave this world and its ephemeral goods, and live for God and the everlasting kingdom. He was, in fact, only 14 years old when he left behind the wealth and comfort of his father’s house and sought an isolated life where he can be totally to God. And as he marched through the mountain he met a holy monk, Romanos, to whom Benedict expressed his desire to become a monk, and therefore Romanos gave Benedict the monastic hood to put on [1]. Benedict then started a solitude life of prayer and fasting for a three years period, training himself in the way of holiness, until his reputation as a holy monk was all over his neighboring areas. And when Satan used to tempt him, Benedict would throw himself in the thrown-shrubs to distract his mind from temptations. Benedict repeatedly fought Satan temptations back in this manner, until God granted him rest and an angelic chastity as a recompense for his perseverance.

Then several people came after him, seeking to learn from his new way of holiness, among them we mention the two young men Maurice and Blacid. And when his followers became numerous enough, Benedict organized them into communities, and monasteries. As years passed by, the holy example of Benedict draw more young men to the monastic life he has started in Italy, until he had some 12 monasteries under his guidance. In the year 530 God inspired him to go up to the high mountain of Cassino, whereat he erected his main monastery, which is the Mother-House of the Benedictine Order. “Ora et labora” was the famous dictum of the inspired monastic rule that Saint Benedict put down for his monks, and which speaks out of the man’s profound relationship with God. Saint Benedict passed to God’s mercy in March 21st, 547, after passing his last 13 years in the Mount-Cassino Monastery. His Order heavily contributed and still into the evangelization of Europe, offering the Holy Church and the world unsurpassed services. It offered the Church many great saints, popes, several bishops, and theologians, which have enriched the Catholic Tradition with their virtuous lives and vast knowledge. May his prayers be with us. Amen.

[1]To give someone the monastic hood to wear” is a common expression in the Maronite Synksar, or Saints’ biographies literature, and it means that Romanos gave Benedict some training and advice about the monastic life, then after he assessed a true desire in Benedict’s heart to consecrate himself totally to God, he blessed and gave his a monastic uniform. The main part of the poor monastic uniform consists of a hood that covers the head of the monk, and blocks his sight from surrounding distractions, and helps him consequently go deeper inside himself, seeking inner peace, which comes from his relationship with God.